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The significance of MIT’s “mind and hand” philosophy

One of the biggest events in our calendar - STEAM Week @ MIT kicked off this weekend with 4 of our Year 6 and Year 7 students representing the British International School, Ho Chi Minh City alongside students from a range of other NAE schools from across the globe. An interesting fact unknown to many about MIT is its motto, “mind and hand”, or Mens et Manus in Latin. We would like to share a blog post by Mark Orrow-Whiting, Nord Anglia Education’s Director of Curriculum and Student Performance, on why he believes the “mind and hand” philosophy is integral to NAE’s STEAM curriculum, which has been enhanced in a collaboration with the university. 

  • MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been recognised as the World’s Leading University for the 7th year in a row! How do they do it?

One of the secrets of their success, I think, is hidden in MIT’s motto, Mens et Manus. Most universities and schools have a motto, ours is Be Ambitious – the difference is what an organisation does to live by it.  Like MIT, we believe that a motto should be so much more than a platitude. It should be something that we live by - every day. If you visit MIT, you’ll see Mens et Manus in action in every part of the university, but what does it mean?

Mens et Manus is Latin for the simple phrase “mind and hand.” This is MIT’s way of saying that it is only through the combination of thought and practical action that we will be able to solve current and future problems. It is only through the application (hand) of theory (mind) that we will be able to make real change and make a real difference.

This is why Nord Anglia Education found MIT so fascinating, and why we took the time to create such a unique collaboration with a leader in STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths). At Nord Anglia, we believe that knowledge is important. However, unlike many educationalists who think that the pursuit of knowledge is the sole purpose of education, we also believe that students need to develop the skills that are going to help them be successful in a changing world where new problems continually arise and jobs have not yet been created. In other words, Mens et Manus is a state of mind that we try to imbue in our students—how to think of an idea, and then go forth and execute it.

Through the hands-on application of concepts, students are able to develop skills such as resilience, creativity, innovation, flexibility and collaboration. These, and other skills, must go alongside the acquisition of knowledge, also known as the development of the mind. It is these two complementary actions, which ultimately form part of a well-rounded education.

The Mens et Manus philosophy is particularly important in teaching the disciplines of STEAM. Real world problems, whether it is climate change or water scarcity, do not solely exist in individual subjects. They require a dynamic range of disciplines to work together to solve these issues. By using the Mens et Manus philosophy with STEAM education, we are not only giving students knowledge, but also the confidence to implement their ideas, experiment, innovate, and ultimately develop practical and workable solutions.

MIT has been working with Nord Anglia Education for two years now and already we are seeing the impact of their approach in our schools. Students who come to MIT for the annual Nord Anglia’s STEAM Week @ MIT event are more engaged and inspired, teachers who come to MIT for professional development are able to take their new ideas back to the classroom and the termly MIT Challenges for all our students are a great way to see the “mind and hand” philosophy come to life in a real and tangible way.

What is particularly inspiring about MIT, and what we aspire to emulate, is this: MIT have found ways to combine the mind with the hand in every classroom, lecture theatre, workshop and building on campus. Every student who graduates from MIT understands the importance of practical approaches to problem solving. It is also presumably why MIT is once again the world’s leading university. It is this approach that will help all of the students graduating from a Nord Anglia school to go on to experience success.

Follow our dedicated Twitter channel @BIS_DREAMSlab as we continue to bring you snippets of STEAM Week @ MIT as the programme unfolds!

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